Fight the good Fight - not the pretty one

Every year, October really irritates me... for a number of reasons.  Partially because of all of the pumpkin spice nonsense...


Seriously.  I think they are terrible.  So terrible.  They taste like sugar and regret.  A little bit like coffee.

Anyway, that's not what this is about.  There's another reason that I don't like October.

(Sexy Twizzlers, in case you didn't catch it)

<sigh>  Make that a two reasons... 


Yup -- the pink ribbon.  I HATE the pink ribbon.  And I hear you all screaming right now. 

"What?!  Breast Cancer is BAD.  How can you be against breast cancer awareness?!  Are you FOR breast cancer?  Are you a MONSTER??"

Short answer - no.  Not a monster, not pro-cancer.  Cancer = bad.  That's a pretty easy side of the fence to be on.

As a matter of fact, I have a personal history of breast cancer.  One day about 10 years ago I was attempting to wrestle my boobs into a sports bra (all women understand this image).  In doing so, I felt a lump.  I though "huh, this is weird."  A few days later, I had a routine doctors appointment and I asked her to check it out, expecting her to say "eh, it's nothing, go about your day."  Instead, she said "hmmmm."  The worst possible noise for your doctor to make.  And she referred me to a specialist.  I had a mammogram and some stabby tests and then surgery to remove some small masses.  From detection to surgery was maybe 6 - 8 total weeks.  They did some more tests, decided everything was good and I didn't need any further treatment, aside from a short course of medication.  In other words, best possible case scenario.  I was very thankful.  

So, that being said, I should support the pink ribbon ladies, right?  WRONG!

Because about 90% of the pink ribbon money goes to these people.


Susan G. Koman

Their name and marketing is everywhere.  Pink ribbons!  Yay!  Buy cat food, fight breast cancer!

Except that's not actually what you're doing.  So -- given that I (hopefully) have a bit of credibility -- just take a minute and hear me out.

The Susan G. Koman Foundation is not a particularly efficient charity.  Their official financial management score is 73.6.  (Two stars) That's barely a C.  The overall charity gets 3 stars, but largely because they get a 96 for transparency, which boosts the overall score to 81, enough for the 3 star rating.

Now this is not a random score given by a blogger that likes llama gifs.  This is the Charity Navigator score, which is pretty well regarded, and generally accepted to be a good measure of charity effectiveness and efficiency.  Is it perfect?  No.  But it's a good place to start.  Since it's a public charity, you can also just read their financial disclosures and tax returns.  

So, why the low rating?  Where do your dollars go?  There are a few criticisms.

1.  Corporate Salaries are pretty generous.  The CEO of the Foundation had a salary of over $500,000.00 in 2015, with total compensation of slightly over $600k. Oddly, their filings also include an "assistant secretary" with a listed salary of $259k.  In addition to those two, the foundation listed 12 additional employees making over $150k per year.  This is not normal.  Average salary for the CEO of a charity is approximately $125,000.00 per year.  In other words, 1/2 of an assistant secretary at the Susan G. Koman Foundation.

In total - nearly 11% of the Foundation's 200 Million annual budget goes to administration and salaries.  Twenty One Million Dollars.  



2.  Expensive Galas.  You know the phrase, "you've got to spend money to make money."  Susan G. Koman takes that to heart.  Another 10% of their annual budget goes to fundraising expenses.  That's Twenty Million Dollars for the numbers peeps.  

Well, wait.  They do a lot of fundraising... so they need to spend that money.  Right?  Nope.  Over HALF of their annual donations comes from their 3-day walk for the cure every October.  Most of those events are organized by local entities that partner with Susan K.  Seriously.  They raise 50% of their annual funds in three days.  That's 120 million dollars, by the way.

The rest of their events are Gala events that take place during the other 11 months.  Most of their 20 million dollar expense budget goes to galas.  They're pricy.


See.  Fancy people. Private jet.  That stuff isn't cheap.  I was going to use a Gatsby photo - but this is almost better.

And internet advertising -- they spend about 3 million dollars per year on that.

3.  Liabilities.  The Susan G. Koman Foundation lists about 80 Million dollars in liabilities.... debts... however, tax forms don't require you to detail those.  It's a big question mark, and leads one to wonder what kind of debt a charity has.

So all of that is enough to irritate me.  But there's more.  Oh yes.  There's more.

Of ever dollar Susan G. Koman raises, about 25 cents goes to administration and back into fundraising - we've already covered that.  That's a little on the high side, considering the fact that they make most of their donations in just a few days.

But, of the remaining 75 cents -- where does that go?

37 cents goes into Education - basically telling people that breast cancer exists and what it is

15 cents goes into Screening - how to detect breast cancer

18 cents goes into Research - finding new treatments, new medications, and ways to actually CURE breast cancer

7 cents goes into Treatment - the actual curing part


Take that in.  Susan G Koman for the CURE.  But less than 25 cents of every dollar goes to curing.  The rest goes into putting pink crap everywhere to educate people about breast cancer, distribute pamphlets, making videos about early detection.

Are those things important?  Yes.  But, let's go back to my story.  10 years ago, I already recognized enough about detecting breast cancer and what "not normal" was that I approached my doctor pretty quickly.

Most people know what breast cancer is, how to detect it, what to do if they think they have it.

You know what we don't have?  An actual cure.  We need more research.

There are a LOT of charities and foundations that do cancer research.  But you don't know about them.  Mostly because they don't spend 20 million dollars on glittery pink things.  They do however, spend upwards of 95 cents of every dollar on actual cancer research.

The Dr. Susan Love Foundation

The Breast Cancer Alliance

The Vera Bradley Foundation

These three foundations fund breast cancer research without high overhead costs or inflated salaries.  I don't endorse any one in particular, and I encourage you to do your own research.

While the level of donations is lower, this is largely because the Susan G Koman Foundation still receives the lion's share of the breast cancer dollars.

It is time to change that.


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